Performance issue (bug?) in libpthread

Aaron Kunze boilerpdx at
Wed Jun 13 21:20:49 UTC 2007


I am seeing a performance issue when I use libpthread to provide POSIX
threads, and I think I've narrowed the problem down to a line of code
in libpthread.  I am interested to know if anyone else has seen this
problem, or if anyone disagrees with my analysis.

I am running on a dual Intel Xeon X5355 system, which gives me 8 cores
total.  I am running an amd64 build of FreeBSD 6.2 with the SMP and
ULE options.  The test program I am using just creates 8 threads that
do nothing but computation.  They do no synchronization or I/O.  I
have complete control of the system, and all other processes are idle.

For the first minute of its run time, this test app uses less than 8
cores.  In most of the test runs, it uses 7 cores, but I have seen
other numbers.  The remaining core(s) are idle.  Here is a snippit
from "top" that shows this:

55948 RUN    0   3:06 87.21% compute_threads_pt
55948 CPU5   5   3:06 87.21% compute_threads_pt
55948 CPU4   4   3:06 87.21% compute_threads_pt
55948 CPU2   2   3:06 87.21% compute_threads_pt
55948 CPU1   1   3:06 87.21% compute_threads_pt
55948 CPU6   6   3:06 87.21% compute_threads_pt
55948 CPU3   3   3:06 87.21% compute_threads_pt
55948 kserel 0   3:06  0.00% compute_threads_pt

The first KSE is on the runqueue because "top" is running on core 0 at
the instant it samples the system state.  That's not the problem.
It's the last KSE that shows the problem.  It is in the kserelease
state and stays there for exactly one minute.

After a minute passes, the problem resolves itself, and the system
becomes fully utilized.  Here's the output of "top" after a minute:

55948 CPU5   5   7:40 92.48% compute_threads_pt
55948 CPU4   4   7:40 92.48% compute_threads_pt
55948 CPU1   1   7:40 92.48% compute_threads_pt
55948 CPU6   6   7:40 92.48% compute_threads_pt
55948 CPU3   3   7:40 92.48% compute_threads_pt
55948 CPU2   2   7:40 92.48% compute_threads_pt
55948 RUN    0   7:40 87.94% compute_threads_pt
55948 CPU7   7   7:40 36.82% compute_threads_pt

I went looking through the libpthread code to find something that
looked like it could cause this, and I found something at lines
1801-1812 of thr_kern.c in the kse_wait function:

    if ((td_wait == NULL) || (td_wait->wakeup_time.tv_sec < 0)) {
        /* Limit sleep to no more than 1 minute. */
        ts_sleep.tv_sec = 60;
        ts_sleep.tv_nsec = 0;
    } else {
        KSE_GET_TOD(kse, &ts);
        TIMESPEC_SUB(&ts_sleep, &td_wait->wakeup_time, &ts);
        if (ts_sleep.tv_sec > 60) {
            ts_sleep.tv_sec = 60;
            ts_sleep.tv_nsec = 0;

I interpret this code to be putting KSEs to sleep for one minute when
they find no user-level threads either ready to run or waiting for
some timed event.  If I change the tv_sec member of ts_sleep to 0
instead of 60 on line 1803, the problem goes away entirely.

Here's what I believe is happening:

- When I create the first worker thread, pthread_create calls _kse_setthreaded.
- _kse_setthreaded calls _thr_setmaxconcurrency, which calls
_thr_setconcurrency with "8" as the argument.
- _thr_setconcurrency creates 7 KSEs (one already exists)
- But at this point, the app has only created one user-level thread!
- In parallel, the main thread continues to create threads while the
new KSEs wake up and look in the run queue for threads to schedule.
- One or more KSEs get to the run queue before all of the threads have
been created and find no work to do.
- Those KSEs call kse_wait and sleep for 1 minute.

So, has anyone seen this before?  Did I miss something?


BTW, I looked at the HEAD in CVS, and the code in question has not
changed.  So if this is a bug, it hasn't been fixed in the meantime.

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